If one thing was for certain this past tour, when the band cranked up the intro to “Down With Disease,” we knew were were in for a creative jam session. Each of the the song’s four appearances on the second leg of summer was unique, and all were highlights of their shows. Always a band and crowd favorite, Phish made no bones about pushing the classic vehicle this summer. Using “Disease’s” safe and upbeat textures to get the audience going and the band united, their real creativity usually came after the searing composed jam. Much like “Drowned” and “Rock and Roll,” the band’s other frequent summer springboards, “Disease” allowed the band to settle into a fool-proof rock groove before stepping up and taking musical risks. Bringing the song to all corners of the musical globe, “Disease” was one of August’s most versatile jams.
Beginning an the third night of Red Rocks, Phish segued out of a set-opening “Rock and Roll” into the first “Disease” of the run. Centering it squarely in the second set, this piece of improv took center stage , providing the most adventurous excursion of the evening by leaps and bounds. After Phish crushed the initial part of the song, they careened out of its structure into some aggressive rock patterns, whose layers were gradually peeled away, leaving an oddly-percussive groove. Taking this arrival point on an exploratory path, the band entered into some new musical turf, guided by Page’s prominent organ leads and Trey’s note bending complimentary patterns. Fishman, however, stood as the player of this piece, continually flowing with unique rhythms that defined the sound of the jam.
When the band landed in the Bay Area for a Wednesday night affair at Shoreline, “Disease” was again showcased in the second set with a colossal twenty-minute version. The composed section of this go-round featured some inspiring “type-I” shredding by Big Red, setting up, arguably, the most outstanding version of the entire summer. Trey took the lead out of Shoreline’s composed jam, offering some gnarled leads and hard rhythm chops while Page killed his clavinet. Trey began to change the pattern of his chops, slicing and dicing the jam from all angles, on top of a sparse, yet cogent, pocket. As Mike and Fish engaged in some eclectic interplay, the rhythmic structure of the jam became its most unique quality.
After using his guitar percussively, Trey oozed out of his grooves with a series of darker leads and effects, coaxing the entire band into a spacier milieu. Trey explored this realm with organic melodies while Page remained glued to his clav as if it were a matter of life or death. This segment evolved into an eerie, ambient groove that was pure, unadulterated improv. Phish settled into collective “type-II” experimentation- something that became the norm for “Disease” during August. The exploratory epic landed in some intricately crafted drone soundscapes that reached deep into the abyss before segueing somewhat abruptly into “Limb By Limb.” Listen here.
After playing such a huge version of “Disease” at Shoreline, Phish turned right around and surprisingly opened The Gorge with the same summer anthem. This time using the song to fire up the crowd, “Disease” opened a show for only the tenth time in its life. Keeping this rendition within the song’s confines, the energy that the band infused into the jam was overwhelming. With Trey jumping up and down before the song even kicked in, the band’s enthusiasm seeped directly into the audience. Dripping with adrenaline from start to finish, this jam set the tone for what would be an unforgettable weekend.
The fourth and final appearance of “Disease” came as the opener of Hartford’s second set. Kicking off a frame of non-stop improv that would culminate with a visit from “Icculus,” this version climbed far beyond the boundaries of the song, resulting in one of the summer’s most surreal musical passages. Getting the set moving with its high-octane rock and roll, Mike led the piece from behind the scenes with a flow of unique, pulsing rhythms. In this version, the band rode out the composed jam a bit longer before sculpting the music- first with slick grooves, then percussive patterns, eventually getting to a final couple minutes of pure transcendence. Breaking down the music into a slower groove, the band- all off a sudden- was surfing a spiritual wave out of nowhere. If you were to craft a mix with of best minutes from the tour, these final two certainly be included. But the blissful music was suddenly lopped off by the much-discussed “Wilson”-induced abortion.
Each time we heard Mike’s bass-slapping reverb this summer, it was like revving up the engine for a ride. Four times we hopped in, and four times we came hopped out with a huge smile. A feel-good summertime vehicle, “Disease” also gave Phish the perfect platform to craft multi-part jams, drawing in the audience with high-speed rock en route to deeper psychedelia. As we move from Summer to Fall, we will likely see more diverse jam vehicles, but if there is one thing we know for sure, “Disease” is here to stay.
Jams of the Day:
“Disease” is at the anchor of this set-opening sequence from Red Rock’s third night.
The beginning chapter of a larger second set story.
DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:
10.25.1996 Hampton Coliseum < Torrent
10.25.1996 Hampton Coliseum < Megaupload
Here we have the second Hampton show of the band’s career. This is the night that Trey proclaimed Hampton to be his favorite room to play, thus beginning the Phishy mystique behind the room they inherited from The Grateful Dead. Before long, however, The Coliseum would transform into The Mothership- one of the Phishiest rooms in the land.
I: Ha Ha Ha, Taste, Makisupa Policeman, Maze, Billy Breathes, Mound, Guelah Papyrus, I Didn’t Know, Stash, The Squirming Coil
II: Tube, Prince Caspian, Timber Ho, TMWSIY > Avenu Malkenu > TMWSIY, NICU, Free, Strange Design, Harry Hood, Cavern, The Star Spangled Banner*
E: Johnny B. Goode